At least six people are dead and 10 others seriously wounded in what U.S. officials are calling a suicide car bombing in front of a downtown Baghdad hotel. Two cars were used in the attack, but it is not known if both were packed with explosives.
Ambulances raced to the scene of the suicide car bombing outside the Baghdad Hotel in the heart of the capital.
The hotel is where several U.S. officials, security agents and members of the Iraqi Governing Council have been staying. The hotel has been leased by the Coalition Provisional Authority.
Shortly after midday a vehicle filled with explosives, followed by another vehicle, raced toward the hotel entrance and drew fire from armed guards. The hotel is heavily guarded with cement blast walls, barbed wire, armed guards, and U.S. troops who sit above the entrance manning machine guns.
Residents in the area said they heard two explosions in rapid succession. Windows were blown out as far as two-blocks away. But the car bomber did not reach the hotel, which sits about 60 meters from the main entrance area.
U.S. army helicopters hovered overhead while dozens of U.S. troops in Humvees and tanks secured a three block perimeter around the site of the blast.
Samir Shattar Mahmud el-Sumaidy, who is one of the 25 members of the Iraqi Governing Council, spoke with VOA at the hotel just hours before the blast. He said that everyday he thinks about being killed. "Every time I actually leave this building, I leave with the knowledge that this could be my last trip. That just outside the building three is somebody waiting to finish me off," he said.
But Mr. el-Sumaidy said he sees no choice but to accept the risk. To do otherwise, he said, would leave Iraq without any hope for a secure and democratic future.
Congressmen Jim McKew from New York, who is in Iraq on a fact-finding mission, said he believes the hotel bombing was the work of terrorists who are afraid of losing power. "I think what we have seen are would be terrorists who are, in fact, themselves terrified. They are terrified of the very prospect of loss of power. They are terrified of the prospect of a people in a land free and in a position to determine their own destiny," he said.
U.S. officials in Iraq said there were more than 50 terrorists attacks Saturday and Sunday in Iraq.
The suicide bombing was the second since Thursday, when 10 people were killed in an attack on a Baghdad police station.